Tu Casa Tapas Cambridge

A little piece of Spain just landed in Mill Road with the recent opening of Tu Casa Tapas, a new independent tapas bar at the Parker’s Piece end of the street.

Tu Casa Tapas Cambridge

It’s owned by Roi Vaquero and Elia Polo who met here in Cambridge five years ago when Roi, who hails from Galicia, took a sabbatical from his job as a corporate lawyer and arrived in the city to improve his English.  He and Elia, who is Italian, noticed that there was no independent Spanish restaurant here and decided to set one up themselves.  It’s been a long journey as they gained experience in some of the city’s top restaurants and negotiated the vagaries of the Cambridge commercial property market but they put a team together along the way and ended up completely refurbishing an old charity shop.  They’ve created a welcoming space with a pared back aesthetic … whitewashed walls, dark wooden furniture, white crockery and plain terracotta dishes that really let the food be the star of the show.

Tu Casa Tapas meatballs

We went for lunch last weekend and ordered from the tapas menu.  Albondigas (beef and pork meatballs marinated in garlic, parsley and white wine tomato sauce) were aromatic in the piquant sauce.

We loved the generous plate of wafer thin hand carved Jamon Iberico de Bellota while the plump Croquetas de Boletus were a texture sensation with a crunchy outside and a soft, creamy mushroomy bechamel sauce inside.

Tu Casa Tapas roast peppersEscalivada con Pimiento (roasted red and green pepper with onion and aubergine, seasoned with cumin and olive oil) was sweet and smokey at the same time.

We managed to squeeze in one final dish, Ensalada de queso de Cabra, a roasted goats cheese on crisp lettuce, studded with walnuts, sultanas and cherry tomatoes and drizzled with a sweet, sticky honey and pomegranate dressing.

Next time we go, we’ll try the main courses which include paella, slow cooked meats and the favourite Huevos rotos (hand cut chips with fried eggs and chorizo).

From the small dessert menu, we ordered Arroz con leche (Valencian rice, cinnamon and skinned lemon served with dried apricot in rosewater) for Johnny and a slice of Tarta de Santiago, the wonderful almond cake which took me right back to a lovely family holiday we had in Galicia some years ago.

Tu Casa Tapas rice pudding

There’s a small wine menu from which I ordered a glass of Rueda which was a perfect light white wine for lunchtime.  Johnny enjoyed his glass of red wine, Ribera del Duero, and we couldn’t resist sharing a glass of sweet, raisiny Pedro Ximenez with our puddings.

Tu Casa Tapas fits really well into Mill Road with its cosmopolitan food scene.  If you’re looking for authentic, delicious Spanish cooking, you’ll find it here.

Facebook:  Tu Casa Tapas Restaurant

8 Mill Road, Cambridge CB1 2AD

What’s on in May

Well, April brought us a short, unseasonal heatwave but as we move into May, the weather’s reverted to wind, rain and generally grey murky conditions … surely, surely we must be due some decent spring days soon??  Anyway, there’s plenty going on in the city so here’s the What’s On listing for May.  It’s a mix of all sorts of things that come to my attention and I update it through the month, so it’s worth checking back occasionally.  And please get in touch via my Contact page if you know of an event that I’d like to include.

Railings at St Bene't's Church, Cambridge
Railings at St Bene’t’s Church

3 – 7th    Cambridge May Fair, Midsummer Common

3 – 12th    11am – 5pm  Sound of Silence.  Still Life Exhibition.  Alessandra Tarcia and Akiko Hirai.  St Peter’s Church, Castle Hill  http://www.flowgallery.co.uk

3rd    8pm  Martin Speake QT ft. Ethan Iverson.  Hidden Rooms, 7b Jesus Lane.  http://www.cambridgejazz.org

5th  10.30am – 4.30pm  Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair.  Guildhall, Market Hill

5th  7.30pm  K.239 Chamber Orchestra.  Elgar, G. Jacob, Mozart, Schonberg.  St Luke’s Church, Victoria Road.  Tickets on the door.

5th    8pm  The Empyrean Ensemble. Beethoven.  Trinity College Chapel.  Tickets on the door.  http://www.tcms.org.uk

7th    9am  The Reach Ride.  A bike ride to the 800 year old Reach Fair.  Assemble in front of the Guildhall, Market Hill, for a 10am departure.  http://www.camcycle.org.uk/reachride

8 – 10th    9.30pm  Queue – A Freshers’ Sketch Show.  Corpus Playroom, St Edward’s Passage.  http://www.adctheatre.com

12th    Jesus Green Lido reopens.  http://www.better.org.uk/leisure-centre/cambridge/jesusgreenlido

12 – 13th    10am – 4pm  National Mills Weekend at Impington Mill and Garden.  Free entry.  http://www.nationalmillsweekend.co.uk

12th    8pm  Ensemble Pro Victoria.  The Kinges Musicke.  Rarely heard music from Tudor England and the Continent before and after the Reformation.  Cornysh, Fayrfax, Byrd, Victoria.  Trinity College Chapel.  Tickets on the door.

13th    12 noon – 5pm  Polish Heritage Day.  Guildhall, Market Hill.  Facebook: @polishdaycambridge

18th    6.30 – 10pm  Summer Night Market and outdoor cinema (Sing and Meet the Parents).  Market Square

19th    10am – 5pm  Festival of Plants 2018.  Cambridge University Botanic Gardens, Brookside  http://www.botanic.cam.ac.uk

19th    10.30am – 4pm  Eat Cambridge – Main Event.  Guildhall, Market Hill.  Festival Fringe events run until 2 June.  http://www.eat-cambridge.co.uk

20th    3pm  Music for the Madonna.  New Cambridge Singers.  Poulenc, Durufle, Villette.  St Botolph’s Church, Trumpington Street.  Tickets on the door.  http://www.newcambridgesingers.org.uk

20th    3.30pm  Blue Smoke.  The Lucy Cavendish Singers.  Classical, traditional and country music followed by tea and cake.  Childerley Hall Long Barn, Dry Drayton.  http://www.lucycavendishsingers.org.uk

30th    10 – 11am  The Red Hot Fireball.  Children’s bilingual storytelling with the Alliance Francaise Cambridge.  Central Library, 1st Floor, Grand Arcade.  Free, no booking required.

Cows on the bank of the River Cam
Camcattle grazing  peacefully on the riverbank

 

Three favourite places to eat in Cambridge

Cambridge News recently asked me to contribute to a piece in which I, along with a couple of other bloggers, shared a few of my favourite places to eat in the city.  It was difficult to choose as there are so many I love and I had a tight word limit but here’s what I wrote!

The Locker Cafe King Street Cambridge
Image credit: John Hodges

The Locker Café in King Street is close to my heart (and not only because of their amazing Chocolate Guinness cake, which is my current obsession!).  It opened just as I started writing my blog at the end of last summer and was the subject of my first post.  Co-owned by father and son John and Adam Hodges, the café is light and spacious with a balcony for sunny days.  Ceramics made by John are in daily use while art on the walls is curated by Adam’s mother and there’s live music on Sunday afternoons.  The Locker is a favourite spot for brunch with my husband and I often interview for the blog here, over tea and cake.

www.thelockercafe.co.uk

The Copper Kettle Kings Parade Cambridge

The Copper Kettle on King’s Parade is one of Cambridge’s oldest restaurants and it has one of the best views too, overlooking the historic buildings of King’s College and its world famous chapel.  It’s open all day, serving breakfast, brunch, lunch and cakes but in the evening the menu switches to Mediterranean cuisine with fish and vegetarian options alongside grilled meat dishes and salads.  I like to meet friends here in the early evening to catch up on news over a glass or two of chilled white wine and a selection of delicious meze that we share as we chat.

www.thecopperkettle.weebly.com

Restaurant Twenty-Two Cambridge

Restaurant Twenty-Two on Chesterton Road has recently reopened with chef Sam Carter and partner Alexandra Olivier offering creative modern British food with a twist, using seasonal ingredients from local suppliers.  Their 7 Course Tasting Menu quite simply blew us away.  Sam creates delectable flavours and presents every dish so beautifully but it’s also the textures in each plate of his food which constantly surprise and excite.  Returning last weekend with family, we enjoyed the set lunch menu which is exceptional value at £20 for three courses.  Once again, Sam had our taste buds dancing until the very last bite.

www.restaurant22.co.uk

For the full version of this article, published in Cambridge News on 28 April 2018, and to see where my fellow bloggers like to eat, just click on the link below.

https://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/whats-on/food-drink-news/cambridge-food-bloggers-restaurant-reviews-14573223

The Star & Mouse Picture Show

Following its very successful debut season in 2017, the Star & Mouse “trinket cinema” is back, bringing film screenings underneath the stars at fabulous venues in and around Cambridge at weekends from May through to September.  This is a very different experience to the one you’ll get at your local multiplex!

The Star & Mouse Picture Show
Image credit:  The Star & Mouse Picture Show

The inspiration for The Star & Mouse Picture Show, owned by Eleanor Lyons and Christian Juschck, came from the way they were already spending time with their friends … evenings of fairy lights, food, fire pits and fancy dress in their garden with their old projector rigged up to screen a movie onto a bed sheet.  Eleanor loves to create a magical world, just as her Dad did for her when she was growing up in a caravan while the family built their house.  Eleanor and Christian’s creativity is boundless – they are bursting with ideas as they bring us the feeling and the enchantment of those evenings with their friends, just scaled up (and they have a large inflatable screen now!)

The season starts this May Bank Holiday (4-6 May) with a Fantasy and Fairytale Weekend at Manor Farm Bourn.  Other venues this year include Madingley Hall, The Doubletree Hilton and The Cambridge American Cemetery.  Star & Mouse will be screening a mix of new films and classics that people want to see again and again.  Unbelievably, this year it’s the 40th anniversary of “Grease”, so on 29 July you can reconnect with Sandy and Danny at Manor Farm Bourn, which will be set up as a drive in movie theatre.  Another highlight will be the River Cam Film Festival (16-19 August) for which Star & Mouse have their own private venue, a little island in The Cam – you get there by punt!

Star & Mouse firepit
Image credit:  The Star & Mouse Picture Show

Whatever you book for, make sure you get there early as the film, screened at nightfall, is just part of the evening.  There’s always plenty of live entertainment, themed to the film.  Catering will be taken care of by popular local food trucks this year and the eco-friendly bar will keep you refreshed.  They’re using proper wine glasses, napkins and plates while cups will be made of biodegradable plant based plastics.  As darkness falls, park yourself in a deckchair, put on your wireless headphones, relax and enjoy the screening.

casino royale playing
Image credit:  Gareth Nunns

Once autumn sets in, Star & Mouse move indoors to the magnificent Saloon Room at Madingley Hall, which they transform into an indoor cinema, custom decorated and lit, with big wing chairs for seating.  There’ll be a Halloween film show and in December, they’ll screen Christmas films.  Eleanor and Christian really do go to great lengths to create a very special experience.  “Last December, we showed “Narnia” in an old barn,” Eleanor tells me.  “We transformed it into a magical pine forest and it took us 72 hours!  But it was worth it to see the wonder on people’s faces when they walked in.”

So let’s keep our fingers crossed for balmy summer nights!  For full details of this season’s programme, to read more of Eleanor and Christian’s story and to book tickets in advance (strongly recommended), just check out the Star & Mouse website.

http://www.starandmouse.com

 

Slow Food Cambridge

One of the many things I love about Cambridge is the food!  From street food in the market to fine dining and everything in between, this city has so much to offer.  And now, Slow Food Anglia is hoping to establish a Slow Food Cambridge group.  At a gathering in Thirsty on Chesterton Road last week, they spoke about their ethos and shared their thoughts on how the group might work here.

Slow Food UK logo
Image credit: Slow Food UK

The Slow Food movement was set up in Italy in 1986 by Carlo Petrini to promote local food, food producers and traditional cooking.  It encourages us to think about the sustainability and traceability of our food, as well as reducing food miles by buying seasonal local produce.  Slow Food has also developed the “Ark of Taste”, designed to preserve heritage foods which are in danger of being lost.  In the UK, these foods include Colchester Native oysters, Dorset Blue Vinney cheese and Jersey Royal potatoes.

The Slow Food Anglia group has run events very successfully in Norfolk.  The plan for Slow Food Cambridge would be to run an event in the city later this year, at Harvest Festival time, culminating in a feast, a communal meal with everybody coming together to celebrate local food and community.

Camcattle on Midsummer Common Cambridge
Camcattle grazing happily on Midsummer Common

Of course, there are many fabulous food enterprises already happening in the city and Slow Food Cambridge plans to work in tandem with them.  But it needs a group of people to get this enterprise off the ground.  Do you care about your food, where it comes from and what you do with it?  Do you have skills that could help get a group up and running?  If the answer to any of these questions is “Yes!”, please get in touch with your thoughts and ideas.  Just leave a comment on this post or get in touch via my Contact page and I’ll feed back (pardon the pun!) to Slow Food Anglia.

http://www.slowfoodanglia.org

http://www.slowfood.org.uk

What’s on in April

Well, March is drawing to a grey and damp close here in Cambridge and it feels like it’s been a very long Winter indeed but let’s be hopeful that warm Spring sunshine is just around the corner.  Here’s the what’s on listing for April.  It’s an eclectic mix of events that come to my attention so if you know about an event that could be included, please get in touch through my Contact page.  I’ll update this listing through the month, so do check back when you can.

Railings at St Bene't's Church, Cambridge
Railings at St Bene’t’s Church, Cambridge

1 – 18th    9am – 5pm  “In a Room of One’s Own”, an exhibition of Contemporary Japanese Woodcut Prints.  Nan Shiomi.  Clare Hall, Herschel Road, CB3

1 – 21st    8am – 5pm Monday – Saturday.  Kaleidescope, an exhibition of original Textile Art.  Free entry.  Michaelhouse Centre, Trinity Street  http://www.easternregiontextileforum.co.uk

2nd    5.30pm  Organ Recital.  William Whitehead.  Parry, Schumann, Liszt, Bach, Jackson and Planyavsky.  King’s College Chapel.  Tickets from King’s College Visitor Centre, King’s Parade

3 – 7th    7pm  Rodelinda.  Cambridge Handel Opera Company.  The Great Hall, The Leys School.  http://www.cambridgelivetrust.co.uk/tickets/events/rodelinda

6th    7.30pm  A celebration of Georgian song.  Members of Ialoni women’s ensemble from Tbilisi with Chela and Buska.  Little St. Mary’s Church.  Free entry

7th    7.30pm  Cambridge Choral Society.  Dvorak and Puccini.  West Road Concert Hall.  Tickets on the door  http://www.cambchoral.org.uk

8th    1 – 4pm  Trinity College Fellows’ Garden open under the National Garden Scheme http://www.ngs.org.uk

8th    2.30pm  Shelly Organ (bassoon) and Tim Watts (piano).  Programme includes music by Saint Saens.  Madingley Hall.  Free admission.  http://www.eventbrite.co.uk

12 and 14th    7.30pm  “I deserve a better chance”, a brave production by people with and without mental health challenges.  CB2 Cafe, CB1  http://www.actingnow.co.uk

13 – 15th    Cambridge Literary Festival  http://www.cambridgeliteraryfestival.com

14th    7.30pm  Best of British.  Cambridge Wind Band.  West Road Concert Hall    Facebook: cambridgewindband  http://www.adctheatre.com

14 – 21st    10am – 5.30pm  Art Exhibition, Cambridge Drawing Society.  Paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture.  The Pitt Building, Trumpington Street.  Free admission  http://www.cambridgedrawingsociety.org

14th    7.30pm  Pentecost in Rome.  De Profundis.  Palestrina and Victoria.  Chapel of Sidney Sussex College.  Tickets on the door

18th    6.30 – 9pm  Cam Lates: Fashion at the Fitzwilliam.  Fitzwilliam Museum  https://www.museums.cam.ac.uk/whats-on/cam-lates

18th    8pm  Endelienta Baroque.  Bach cantatas.  Chapel of Jesus College.  Free entry

20th    7.30pm  Ivor Jones Memorial Concert.  Harp and organ.  Wesley Church, Christ’s Pieces  https://ivorjonesconcert.eventbrite.co.uk

21st    6.30pm  David Wright, harpsichord.  Bach’s Goldberg Variations.  Gonville & Caius College.  Tickets on the door.  http://www.neweurope.org.uk

22nd    2.30pm  Cerys Purser (mezzo-soprano) and Tim Watts (piano).  Programme includes music by Watts and Berio.  Free admission.  Madingley Hall  http://www.eventbrite.co.uk

Easter tree

 

Restaurant Twenty-Two Cambridge

Sam Carter and Alexandra Olivier are partners in life and business who’ve just realised a long held ambition to open a restaurant of their own.  Chef Sam is in charge of the kitchen while Alex takes care of front of house and they both bring many years of experience at leading dining establishments to their new venture.

Restaurant Twenty-Two sign

Restaurant Twenty-Two windowThey’ve spent the past couple of months refurbishing this twenty two cover restaurant in Chesterton Road into a sophisticated and restful space, decorated in tones of grey with flickering tea lights and simple flowers on each table.  Upstairs, there’s a cosy private dining room which seats fourteen people.  Sam and his team serve a seven and a five course tasting menu, alongside an a la carte option and there’s a set lunch menu too.

My husband, Johnny, and I were lucky enough to bag a table for the restaurant’s soft opening at which they served their 7 Course Tasting Menu.  It wasn’t long before I decided that this is a great way to eat … no indecisive scanning of menus, no food envy, just people bringing you plate after plate of fabulous food!  Sam’s style is creative modern British food with a twist, using seasonal ingredients from local suppliers.  But it’s not just the flavours that Sam creates (always delectable) or the presentation of his dishes (always immaculate, as you can see from the photos through this post), it’s also the textures in each plate of his food which constantly surprise and excite.

Every course was wonderful but highlight dishes for me included

….  blow torched mackerel, the rich, oily fish perfectly paired with tangy buttermilk, wafer thin disks of stripey pickled beetroot, dotted with dill oil

Restaurant Twenty-Two mackerel

….  a meltingly tender piece of braised lamb shoulder, almost like a confit, with sheep’s yoghurt, velvety carrot puree, tiny cubes of punchy mint jelly, topped with crispy carrot

Restaurant Twenty-Two lamb

….  rich, sweet, malty Guinness bread served with light whipped Guinness butter

Restaurant Twenty-Two Guinness bread

….  the bright flavours of the palate cleansing pre-dessert, a lime and yoghurt panna cotta topped with a Yorkshire rhubarb jelly, hibiscus and refreshing cucumber sorbet

Restaurant Twenty-Two pre dessert

Sommelier Dan Smith is creating a really interesting wine list full of unusual finds.  Johnny decided to go with Dan’s recommendations for the wine flight matched to the menu and was happy to discover new pairings, including

….  Dafni, a dry herbaceous white wine from Crete, with the mackerel

….  Tio Diego, a deep amber, bone dry amontillado sherry with the lamb

….  Le Barral, Rivesaltes Ambre, a sweet fortified wine from the South of France which was an excellent match for the chocolate, peanut and salted caramel dessert.

By the end of the evening, we were feeling pretty full (understatement!) but we squeezed in a Hot Numbers coffee for him and a green tea from The Kandula Tea Company for me, along with homemade whisky truffles and smooth vanilla fudge dotted with a sharp lemon sauce … Sam had our taste buds dancing until the very last bite.

Restaurant Twenty-Two petits fours

As we tottered home, we agreed that we’re extremely lucky to have such exciting and superb cooking happening pretty much on our doorstep.  Sam, Alex and their team have all the enthusiasm, skill and passion to make a huge success of Restaurant Twenty-Two and I have no doubt they will do just that.  I only hope we can still get a table once the word gets out!

http://www.restaurant22.co.uk

22 Chesterton Road, Cambridge CB4 3AX

Sam and Alex kindly invited me to join them at their opening party.  The following evening, we ate and drank at Restaurant Twenty-Two at our own expense.